After Brussels: Profile, Protect, Prevent, Prefer

By John Wohlstetter Published on March 23, 2016

The carnage in Brussels adds the name of another great city to the list of Western cities targeted since 9/11 by Islamic terrorists in mass-casualty attacks. Brussels, March 22, 2016 follows close on the heels of San Bernardino (December 2, 2015), Paris (January 7 and November 13, 2015), London (July 7, 2005), Madrid (March 11, 2004) and New York City (September 11, 2001). And in Asia there were Mumbai (November 26, 2008) and Bali (October 11, 2002, targeting Australians).

Our growing vulnerability to mass-casualty terror strikes — whose frequency is increasing — has been fueled by four domestic impediments. Current policies, if not changed, will perpetuate our terror exposure. Here are four areas where we can make reforms and take action to better confront the threat:

1. Profile

Step One is to lose political correctness, once and for all, and institute broader profiling. We do not have — as many anti-profiling critics contend — an “Islamophobia” problem; we have an “Islamophilia” (detailed definition) problem. It started with former President George W. Bush’s “religion of peace” mantra, first floated (4:17) six days after the Sept. 11, 2001 atrocities. And in President Obama we have a chief executive who has publicly called the sound of Muslim prayers “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.” It includes the president’s politically correct diversion re the Crusades, used by Islamists and p.c. types to sanitize Islam’s own imperialist past (brilliantly traced by Bernard Lewis in 2007). Obama said, “Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

George W. Bush used “crusade” differently (1:54, Sept. 16, 2001), calling the War on Terror by that term until p.c. removed the term from his public vocabulary. But Bush never apologized for America, and pursued vastly different national and homeland security policies. Some Islamophilics believe “Islam” in Arabic means “peace.” In fact the term’s Arabic root is aslama, which translates into English as submission — in the context of Islam, submission to the will of Allah.

Yes, many Muslims are peaceful, but many more support terrorism, actively or passively, so we need to get over, once and for all, our reluctance to use full-bore profiling.

Instead of searching for bad people we search for bad things. We can begin with what can be called the Jesse Jackson Rule, after what Jesse Jackson said in 1993:

There is nothing more painful to me at this stage of my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.

Now Jackson uses a composite profile; profiling by race alone is likely rare, especially on the part of police, who act in response to descriptions furnished by complainants or witnesses. Anyone who uses race alone should be censured, both for racism and stupidity. Had Jackson turned around to see a 90-year-old black man with a walker humming a Gospel hymn, or a black mom pushing a nine-month old in a stroller, he’d also have been relieved. Gender factors in, as does physical size and condition. Add in dress — hoodie versus tuxedo; speech — saying “F*** the police” versus reciting Shakespeare; and body language — menacing versus friendly.

And, yes, even if all the boxes got checked to trigger a warning light, it’s still more likely than not that the fellow approaching Jesse Jackson from behind is simply minding his own business. But Jesse Jackson knows what is common sense to urban dwellers: setting aside the historical/cultural causes, there is a profile of a certain type of urban pedestrian far more likely to commit violence on the street. In real life, those who live in America’s cities are either acknowledged profilers or in denial about what they do. It is a tool of urban survival. Some do it in a more nuanced and perceptive fashion than others, but everyone with any awareness and common sense does it.

We profile not out of laziness, but because in some situations we recognize a greater than normal level of risk. While most street encounters are peaceful, a small increased probability of being victim of a violent felony is enough to trigger our profiling reflex. The same ought to be the case as we confront the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.

One country uses more profiling than any other: Israel. It is not a coincidence that the last successful airplane hijacking of an El Al Israel Airlines plane was in 1968. We would do well to emulate what Israel does, especially interviewing people before they check in.

2. Protect

Step Two is to protect those who “see something” but are afraid to “say something.” Such fear may well have motivated a neighbor of the San Bernardino terrorists to refrain from notifying police about activity she regarded as suspicious, for fear of being branded with p.c.’s foremost Scarlet Letter, “R” for “racist.” Those who go to the police face three credible threats: (a) harassment — lawsuits that are expensive to defend — and socio-political — protesters outside their home; (b) demonization — by groups with regular media access that individuals rarely have; (c) cyber-bullying — it is easy to find virtually anyone on the Internet today, and target complainants.

Against such tactics people need protection, while allowing legitimate suits to proceed. This can be done by giving witnesses confidential informant status, and by restricting plaintiffs to filing suit against either the federal government or the state (or both, if federal and state claims are filed). Large governments have the financial resources to contest such claims; they have regular access to free media; and they have the resources to pursue those who commit cyber-crimes/torts (“tort” is legal parlance for civil wrongs).

Without such protection “see something” will not consistently lead to “say something.”

3. Prevent

Step Three is to prevent entry of inadequately vetted migrants from Islamic countries. We need extra assurance of migrant bona fides. True, this net will not catch homebrew terrorists, but it will add an extra layer of protection. And let us dispense with the faux constitutional objection, that the U.S. Constitution’s “no religious test” clause requires that we treat equally migrant applications regardless of their religion. The clause, part of paragraph three in Article Six, is set in a specific context:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. (Italics mine.)

Thus the clause applies to prospective holders of “any office or public trust” and to nothing else. That’s a far cry from treating it as applying to everyone; per chief justice Marshall’s landmark opinion in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), “person” to the framers did not include the Ottoman Sultan:

A Constitution, to contain an accurate detail of all the subdivisions of which its great powers will admit, and of all the means by which they may be carried into execution, would partake of the prolixity of a legal code, and could scarcely be embraced by the human mind. It would probably never be understood by the public. Its nature, therefore, requires that only its great outlines should be marked, its important objects designated, and the minor ingredients which compose those objects be deduced from the nature of the objects themselves.

An essential attribute of sovereignty is the right to decide who enters, and which visitors can stay. A country might at times, as when conquered, lack the ability to do so, but still retain the right to do so, upon regaining control of its territory. The United States still has control of its territory. We need to vigorously if humanely exercise that control now lest we lose that power altogether, and with it many other precious things.

4. Prefer

Step Four is to give entry preference to migrants who are culturally compatible with America’s heritage. In Norway, Muslim refugees given shelter by Christian groups successfully petitioned the government to order Christians hosting Muslim refugees to remove Christian symbols that the new arrivals found offensive. Rather than granting the petition, any reasonable government dedicated to freedom would take this as a sure sign that here were migrants culturally incompatible with Western ideas of religious freedom.

We should apply what I will call the Nikki Haley Rule in admitting migrants, a label coined after her televised response to President Obama’s 2016 State of the Union address. South Carolina Gov. Haley’s remarks set three criteria for admission of applicants seeking to emigrate to America: “No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”

The Muslims who petitioned Norway’s government to force removal of Christian symbols did not love Norway’s traditions. They were peaceful, yet hostile. This intermediate category is ignored in the current political conversation, which focuses on the stale dichotomy between violent jihadists and peaceful Muslims. Almost everyone opposes terrorist acts. And almost everyone accepts that Muslims who are peaceful and meet Nikki Haley’s criteria merit consideration. It is the treacherous middle ground that may, in the long run, pose greater risk to America’s survival. People who come here, take advantage of our economic and social mobility, and of our laws and values, whilst intending to overturn our civilizational culture, are a collective civilizational Trojan Horse.

Since our sitting president has put America in retreat from the world stage while opening its arms to all and sundry, regardless of ideology, such remedial action awaits a new administration.


John C. Wohlstetter is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and London Center for Policy Research, author of Sleepwalking With the Bomb, and founder of the issues blog Letter From the Capitol.

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